Imaginative play benefits young children in multiple ways, with four significant benefits being:
- social and emotional skills development
- language development
- thinking skills development
- the development of symbolic thinking
It’s important to understand the benefits of pretend play because that demonstrates why it’s such an important component of your child’s life. But that raises the question of how, exactly, you can encourage imaginative play. And, this post will share five simple but ingenious ways to do exactly that.
#1 Share Stories
Since the early days of humankind, people gathered around the fire to listen to and share stories. Through this group experience, the older generation passed on wisdom to the next. So, it’s not surprising that Parenting.com lists storytelling as the first of ten ways to fire up your child’s imagination. The article shares that you don’t need a book with beautiful illustrations. All you really need is that “one-on-one connection, the parent and the child, with the story mediating, that takes us back to the archetype of all education, of all human relationships.”
Storytelling, the article concludes, may in fact be the cornerstone of developing imagination, so including this into your child’s daily life can be very beneficial.
#2 Provide Your Child with a Big Box
This strategy is also shared by Parenting.com, with the article referencing how children are often given a big toy as a present—but they prefer to play with the box it came in, instead. So, get a box and put it in your home, providing your child with markers and other items to decorate the box and transform it into whatever he or she wants it to be. Perhaps, the article suggests, it could become a house. Or, it might become a cave—or even a time capsule. Imagination rules!
#3 Let Your Child Dress Up
Simply provide your child with old clothes you don’t wear anymore, along with Halloween costumes stuffed in your closet. Give your child an old baton and it can, in a blink of an eye, become a magic wand. When children dress up, the next natural step includes role playing in virtually any fantasy world that their young minds can conjure up. Perhaps three taps of the magic wand can transport them to the moon, where they might need to problem solve. After all, where does one live on a planet without cars or houses and grocery stores?
Let your child tell you a story about his or her fantasy world. Research indicates that, when parents play with children, they’re more likely to be happy and less likely to experience anxiety.
#4 Add Stuffed Animals to the Mix
Perhaps that stuffed bear with buttons for eyes may become the pilot of the ship that brings your child safely home from the fantasy world on the moon. And, watching how your child interacts with stuffed animals will likely provide cues to what he or she is observing in relationships around him or her. If, an article from VeryWellFamily.com points out, “you encourage kindness and empathy in your child, you're likely to see him being a caring pretend doctor or a chef who wants to please the people he's feeding with healthy food.”
#5 Embrace Downtime
This final example of imaginative play comes from Parents.com; it reminds us that, if we fill every free hour of a child’s life with structured activities, then we aren’t promoting creativity. So, include time for pretend play, both indoors and out, so your child can also “kick up leaves, stare at the clouds, and run around the playground.”